Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Foodborne Illnesses FAQ

Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illnesses.

Select a question below to expand the answer. 

What is foodborne illness?

A foodborne illness is a disease that is transmitted to humans by food. Recent developments in diagnosing and tracking reported illnesses have helped the public become more aware that certain types of illness may be related to the food they ate prior to becoming sick.

Find more information on foodborne illness.

How do I report a foodborne illness?

You should report a foodborne illness directly to the Florida Department of Health using DOH's online submission form.

Who makes sure our food is safe to eat?

Everyone plays a role in helping to ensure that the food we eat is safe and wholesome:

  • Growers, packers and distributors
  • Wholesale food establishments
  • Retail food establishments
  • Regulatory and inspection agencies
  • Consumers

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other government agencies work hard to protect our food supply. Food safety is a big part of the job at these agencies, but keeping food safe is actually everybody's responsibility. Food producers, processors, sellers and individual consumers like you also have an important part to play. The greatest threats to food safety — bacteria and viruses — are the hazards over which you as a consumer have the greatest control. Don't let yourself down. Accept your share of the responsibility for keeping your food supply safe. 

What are the risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness?

These are the top five risk factors contributing to foodborne illness:

  • Food from unsafe sources
  • Inadequate cooking
  • Improper hot/cold holding temperatures
  • Contaminated equipment
  • Poor personal hygiene

The cost of foodborne illness to the nation, based on direct medical expenses, lost wages and productivity, and industry loss of tainted food products, is estimated at $1 billion to $10 billion annually. The reported incidence of foodborne illness is on the rise.

Who is at highest risk for foodborne illness?

  • Infants and very young children,
  • The elderly,
  • Pregnant women and
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, AIDS, liver disease or cancer.

Ask your doctor if you or a family member falls into a "high risk" category. If you do, your doctor may recommend foods to avoid.

If I am sick and suspect I have a foodborne illness, what should I do?

First see your doctor. Then report your illness directly to the Florida Department of Health using DOH's online submission form.

If you suspect you became ill from food purchased at a supermarket, grocery or convenience store, use the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' online form: File a Complaint About a Food Product or Food Business.

If you suspect you became ill from food consumed at a restaurant, contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 488-9263.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

Use good sense when you shop. Don't buy foods in dented, rusty, bulging or leaky cans or in cracked jars or jars with loose or bulging lids. If you have such items at home, throw them out.

  • Never buy cracked eggs. On your shopping trip, pick up frozen and perishable foods last and get them into your refrigerator and freezer at home as soon as possible.
  • Keep food out of the DANGER ZONE. This means hot foods should be kept at 135 degrees F or above and cold foods at 41 degrees F or below.
  • Don't let cooked or refrigerated foods, such as salads, sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Keep food free from organisms that cause food poisoning by keeping the food, the preparation equipment and yourself clean.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before you start preparing food, before you handle a different food (for example, if you just handled raw chicken, wash your hands before preparing a salad), and after using the bathroom.
  • Don't sneeze or cough on food.
  • Thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables with water before eating or preparing.
  • Organisms can "travel" from raw to cooked food, so never let raw food touch cooked food.
  • Wash utensils, including the cutting board, with soap and warm water and rinse again in a sanitizing solution like bleach in between each preparation step.
  • Cook food hot enough to sizzle. High food temperatures (165 degrees F to 212 degrees F) reached by boiling, baking, frying and roasting kill most foodborne illness organisms.

Cook foods thoroughly to a high enough temperature to kill organisms. Never eat raw or undercooked eggs; they might contain harmful organisms. When cooking in the microwave, stir or turn the food and turn the dish several times. Once cooked, keep hot foods hot at 135 degrees F or above until served. Be suspicious. If you notice mold, cut off a large section of the food around the mold and throw it out. If you're not absolutely certain about a food, throw it out.

What should I do if I have a question or a food safety concern about a food product I have purchased?